Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
bears all its sons away;
they fly, forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.
Driving along the M50 at 7.45 on a Saturday morning, Lyric FM play mellow music, assuming, reasonably, that it’s a laid back day for most of their listeners. A request comes in for someone who was described as a “fan” of David Lloyd George, (the second time his name had cropped up on the radio in twelve hours, a programme last evening had quoted his correspondence with Winston Churchill in 1918).
A fan of David Lloyd George?
Most people would never have heard of him. In an Ireland where the population is young and increasingly European, long dead British prime ministers are hardly household names.
Why did the man who was Prime Minister from 1916-1922 get mentioned at all on a music request programme? Because there was a sound track wanted, Ennio Morricone’s Chi Mai, which provided the theme tune for the television series The Life and Times of David Lloyd George. Was it the Prime Minister who was remembered or was it the character played by Philip Madoc in the 1981 series?
There is a strong dose of realism about human fame in the hymn “O God our help in ages past” as it paraphrases Psalm 90.
“They fly, forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day”.
That equality in mortality is recognized by Shakespeare. Hamlet has killed Polonius and makes the point in graphic terms:
Now, Hamlet, where’s Polonius?
At supper! where?
Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain
convocation of politic worms are e’en at him. Your
worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all
creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for
maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but
variable service, two dishes, but to one table:
that’s the end.
A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a
king, and cat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
What dost you mean by this?
Nothing but to show you how a king may go a
progress through the guts of a beggar.
All of which explains the closing line of a BBC report on Lady Thatcher, “She was prime minister for 11 years before resigning, under pressure from her party, in 1990”.
If even Mrs Thatcher has to be explained, eighteen years is now long enough to fly, forgotten as a dream.